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Casterton, J. (1996). In the yellow room. Free Associations, 6(4):493-512.

(1996). Free Associations, 6(4):493-512

In the yellow room

Julia Casterton

Continued rumours are perhaps responsible for last night's dream, a nightmare. An enormous black buffalo, bison, or bull is pursuing a cart or carriage in which we are all crowded.

Had the car plunged over a cliff? Were we in it?

Some of us, a group of six or eight, now seated on a mountain slope, ask, are we dead?

(H. D., Tribute to Freud)

I spent my childhood stretched between two women: my mother, who gave me physical care but was too shagged out to give anything else, and my mother's sister, a ‘lazy bitch’ according to my mother, who was never tired because she never lifted a finger to do anything she didn't care to. She supplied me with everything else, my real needs as I thought of them then. She taught me to play the piano, to cook jam tarts. She was a church organist and she set me to sing in various choirs, which I loved: helplessly giggling away my adolescence with village children in choir stalls, making fun of the vicar. She played for all sorts of denominations—Baptist, Church of England, you name it—and wherever she played, she tried to impose the other sort of music on them: Billy Graham on the Anglicans, chanting and plainsong on the Baptists. I thought her absolutely right to rebel against all their orthodoxies. I sang very loudly with her organ playing when she battled with a vicar who was singing too slowly in one sleepy village, and I moved on with her whenever she had to move on to another choir, another organ. That she regularly fell in love with the vicars and was dismissed for embarrassing them or their wives was fine with me. I loved infatuation and believed it necessary to brighten up our lives.

It was only later, when I was about twenty four, that I began to suspect she might be a little bit strange.

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